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Acid Etching

A reliable source for Acid Etching information and leading Acid Etching Companies

Acid etching is a process where a hard metal is cut using a specially formulated acid to allow the formation of the desired design onto the metal. The acid etching process uses mordant acids that are available together with chemical compounds to impart a physical or aesthetic improvement to the metal surface. Read More…

Acid Etching Acid etching, otherwise known as chemical milling or chemical etching, is a chemical process used by many industrial metal parts manufacturers to etch, cut or engrave very delicate or precise lines into metal.
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Leading Manufacturers

Maple Grove, MN  |  763-425-4755

Great Lakes Engineering is a trend setting manufacturer of surface mount stencils, precision laser cut parts, and photo chemical etched parts. We work with a wide range of materials, including Stainless Steel, Copper, Titanium, Nitinol, Nickel, Kovar and many others.

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Great Lakes Engineering, Inc. $$$

El Monte, CA  |  626-443-7121

VACCO is the industry leader of Photo Chemical Etching of metal & polyimide components and devices. We specialize in Stainless steel, Titanium, and Copper, but work with a variety of different materials. We have over 60 years of experience in Chem Etching, and we offer Micro Laser Cutting & Welding, and Diffusion & Adhesive Bonding services along with an extensive range of value-added services. Whether your application is large or small, VACCO can assist you from prototype to production.

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VACCO Industries, Inc. $$$

Phoenix, AZ  |  602-278-7800

Quality. Integrity. Made in USA. Precision etched parts, nameplates, asset tags, graphic overlays, signage and more - our team has been producing high quality products for over 35 years. We serve all industries - automotive, aerospace, military, medical, electronics and equipment manufacturers.

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PMA Photometals $$$

Milford, MA  |  508-478-2025

PEI is a leading producer of photochemical machining and photochemical etching precision and decorative metal parts. We use chemical machining and etching as a process to selectively remove material by chemical action, creating extraordinary cost-effectiveness. In business since 1967.

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Photofabrication Engineering Inc. $$$

Santa Clara, CA  |  888-448-2549

Founded in 1977, we offer photochemical machining to make products from copper-based alloys plus ferrous and high-nickel alloys. We have used chemical milling to produce items for the architectural, decorative, mechanical and motion picture industries. Secondary operations also available.

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Italix Company Inc. $$$
placeholder image Great Lakes Engineering, Inc. VACCO Industries, Inc. PMA Photometals Photofabrication Engineering Inc. Italix Company Inc.

Acid Etching

Acids Used in Acid Etching

Many types of acids are used in etching stainless steel, including sulphuric acid and nitric acid. These acids all require proper and careful handling. The acids can dissolve fingers or stainless steel. A faster etching process is usually the result of a stronger acid.

Acids Used In Etching

Hydrochloric acid is mostly used during copper etching. In the etching of mild steels, copper sulfate is used. Nitric acid is best used in a one-to-three ratio with water.

Metals That Can be Acid Etched

Any known metals can be etched with acid, the most popular being attractive metals due to their characteristics and properties. Metals that are used mostly in acid etching are listed below:

Acid Etched Metal

Titanium – Titanium is a strong, lightweight metal that possesses good fatigue characteristics.

Aluminum – Aluminum is another strong and lightweight metal with good corrosion resistance and weight ratio.

Copper – Copper is a soft metal that etches very quickly.

Nickel – Nickel is resistant to extreme temperatures and usually used as an alloy.

Stainless Steel – Stainless steel is very resistant to corrosion.

Acid Etched Stainless Steel

Bronze – Bronze is a ductile metal. It is very firm, stiff, and hard compared to copper.

Molybdenum – This metal has high strength characteristics and good electrical conductivity. Molybdenum is known for its high thermal properties and low thermal expansion.

Types of Acid Etchings

The types of acid etchings include:

Steel Etching

The requirements for steel etching are distilled water, acetone, plastic container, rubber gloves, ferric chloride, wet-steel wool, etch resist, and dental paper. The most important part is the preparation of these etching components. Poor preparation will give a disappointing outcome.

The initial stage of preparation involves dissembling the knife, where there should be no amount of acid on the liners, scales, or washers. Afterward, the blade is cleaned with acetone. This process creates a very clean surface so that the etch resist will adhere to it quickly.

The third stage involves the creation of the etch resist pattern. The pattern is formed on the steel as a barrier is created to stop the acid before it reaches the steel. A pattern forms when the resistance is removed, and all the exposed metal is darkened and marked by the acid.

Following this step, the etch acid is mixed before the etching starts. This mixing must be done in a well-ventilated area. There are two main processes of acid etching: acid bath etching and focused etching. Sanding, stone washing, and clean-up follow before the final results are obtained.

Aluminum Etching

Aluminum etching is considered a less toxic, simple, cheap, and safer kind of metal etching. The general steps in aluminum etching start with the preparation of the mordant. Next, copper sulfate is dissolved with salt, and the solution is allowed to cool. Copper sulfate is toxic in large quantities.

The etch must always be allowed to cool before use since it can produce an aggressive smoke during etching. However, the process is quick to finish, and interesting textures can be obtained if coarse salt is used.

Applications and Benefits of Acid Etching

The applications and benefits of acid etching include:

Applications and Uses of Acid Etching

The applications of acid etching are broad, and listed below are some of the areas they cover:

  • Lead frames
  • Contacts and electrical connectors
  • Motor laminations
  • Medical instruments and devices
  • Plate heat exchangers
  • Filters, meshes, and sieves
  • Gaskets, washers, and shims
  • Cranio maxillofacial implants
Acid Etched Filter Screen

Benefits of Acid Etching

  • Little or no hard tooling is required
  • Unlimited complexity
  • Low cost
  • Fast iterations
  • High accuracy
  • The metal's properties are unaffected
Component Clean-up

Acid Etching Informational Video


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